Improve Scapula Control

The scapula is one of the least congruent joints in the body. There is no bony articulation between the scapula and the thorax. This is why the scapula can move so easily, essentially it is a free-floating bone that can move into protraction/retraction, elevation/depression, anterior tilt/posterior tilt, internal/external rotation, and upward/downward rotation. We can not change the structure of this scapulothoracic joint,  however, we can improve scapular control! Scapula position is almost fully determined by the pulling of muscle groups that attach to the scapula. The scapula is the core of the upper body, this is where the force comes in through and gets distributed out of. This article will demonstrate exercises that you can do on your own to improve your scapula control.


Understanding Scapulohumeral Motion

Improve Scapula Control

The shoulder is used during virtually all upper extremity motion. The scapula aka the shoulder blade is considered the base of the shoulder complex. A lack of scapula stability has been blamed as the cause of shoulder pain. Is dyskinesia an indicator of instability?  Is instability a good predictor of future pain? many authors have looked into this. A review shows little to no correlation between movements described to be dysfunctional and shoulder pathology. It seems to be there is no “normal” movement of the shoulder, deviations are simply part of human variation. Check out this article we wrote for more on this topic!

READ: Does SICK scapula = Pain?

SICK scapula the prehab guys


How To Improve Scapula Control

The goal of this article is not to give you exercises that are designed to be the meat of your workout. This article will demonstrate exercises that you can use on a daily basis to activate the intended muscles you are targeting to improve scapular control. The following exercises can be used as a warmup prior to your lifting session or as shoulder training support.

Improve Your Scapula Mobility With Shoulder [P]Rehab!

shoulder program the prehab guys improve scapula mobility

Do you feel that you don’t have control of your shoulder blades? Is your shoulder pain limiting you from reaching your goals or completing day to day activities? The Shoulder [P]Rehab Program is a physical therapist developed, step-by-step program that teaches you how to optimize your shoulder health. This 4-phase program will expose you to various scapula and shoulder strengthening and stabilization exercises supported by science. This program will bulletproof your shoulders for anything life throws at you! Learn more HERE! 


Shoulder  Rotations

Sample Shoulder [P]Rehab Program Exercise Video

  • HOW: Rotate your shoulder from internal to external rotation and repeat. When in external rotation, think about scooping back your shoulder blades while attempting to point your thumbs towards the floor. When internally  rotation allow your shoulder blades to come up and forward while thinking about bringing your pinky up towards the ceiling.


  • COMPENSATION: Avoid arching your low back as your rotate your arms externally or backwards.


Moving Your Shoulder Blades With Intention

Your scapula aka your shoulder blade is often very difficult for people to find. If you don’t initiate movements like rows or pull-ups from the scapula = you will “arm” the movement. Meaning you will rely heavily on shoulder and arm muscles. Your scapula is able to handle more load than your arm muscles. With any movement you want to move proximally to distally, the scapula should initiate the motion when performing a movement like the Row, Lat Pull-Down, or when performing pull-ups. Shown here are a couple movements that will help improve scapula control. Realize that at First implementing this strategy may decrease your performance, however the potential to improve your performance increases. .

1️⃣start in open chain with your arms moving in space

2️⃣add a resistance band which will help give a resistance cue to target the scapula retractors (muscles that pull your shoulder blade back) -keep minimal elbow flexion here

3️⃣perform scapula pull-ups also with minimal elbow flexion


overhead stability fitness athlete the prehab guys


Scapula Clocks

Sample Shoulder [P]Rehab Exercise Library Video

Learning how to move and control your shoulder blades in every plane of motion is essential to shoulder health!


Scapula clocks with Arms Elevated

With this variation, keep your arms in a 90 degree position, where your hands are directly in front of your shoulders. Now make big circles forwards and backwards.


Single Arm Scapula Pushup On Elevated Surface

For this exercise find an elevated surface to one arm on. In a high plank position keeping your body in line (feet up to shoulders). Allow the scapula to sag then push the scapula away from you pushing your chest away from the floor. Return back to the starting position and repeat. Avoid moving at the elbows as you perform this exercise. Make sure the motion is coming from your shoulder blade. Looking for more Serratus Anterior strengthening exercises? Check this article out.


Does Shoulder Blade Position Matter? Learn Here!


Closing Thoughts

There are a lot of variables when it comes to improving scapular control. It first starts with body awareness and understanding what muscles contribute to scapula control and scapular position. With this knowledge, you can begin to work on your scapular control by challenging yourself to explore different movements and different exercises while intentionally being mindful of your scapula position!


Improve Scapular Control By Enhancing Lower Trap Activity!


About The Author

Arash Maghsoodi, PT, DPT, CSCS

arash maghsoodi the prehab guysArash Maghsoodi received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. For his undergraduate studies, he attended San Diego State University and studied Kinesiology. After sustaining a career-ending ankle sprain while playing collegiate soccer, he realized how disabling and life-altering injuries can be. Arash currently resides in beautiful Santa Monica, California. His clinical experience is primarily in the orthopedic and sports setting. He has treated a wide variety of conditions ranging from the post-operative individual to the professional athlete. Arash is keeping the family legacy of becoming a physical therapist, as his mother is a practicing clinician of 30 years in the Orange County area.




Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.

  • Karly
    Posted at 16:20h, 21 March Reply

    When would shoulder ER strengthening be counter productive to shoulder rehab?

    • Sherif Elnaggar
      Posted at 07:45h, 22 March Reply

      Hello Karly! Thank you for your question! Generally speaking, unless there is a contraindication in regards to strengthening the external rotators, there will not be too many instances in which it is counter productive. An example of strengthening external rotators being contraindicated would be during the earlier phases following a surgery to protect the shoulder while allowing for an optimal healing environment. We have an article dedicated to the rotator cuff too. Here is the link!

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